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Guidelines for the Best Tasting Tea

  1. Always start with fresh loose tea. Tea found in tea bags may be convenient to use, but it is often of lower quality. It is easier to see exactly what you are getting with loose tea. At Highland Coffees, we offer a wide selection of fine teas that we bring in from outstanding tea importers on the east and west coasts. We order frequently and in small quantities so that our supply is always very fresh.
  2. Store your tea in an airtight container in a cool area away from sunlight. Do not keep your tea in the refrigerator or freezer because it may pick up moisture or unwanted flavors. Tea will remain fresh for several months.
  3. Always use cold water to make tea. Hot water from the tap may pick up impurities from the water heater. Pre-heat your teapot by swirling some freshly heated hot water through the teapot and pouring it out. By following these steps your teapot will not absorb the heat of your tea as it steeps. For black and dark oolong teas, bring the water to a rolling boil in your tea kettle and pour over the tea leaves. Light oolongs need a temperature of about 190° F (88° C). For green teas, a lower temperature of about 160° F (71° C) is needed. Allow the water to cool for a couple of minutes off the boil to reach this temperature. White teas call for a brewing temperature of about 180° F (82° C) (about sixty seconds off the boil). Use water brought to a boil for most herbal teas, but for yerba mate only heat the water to about 160° F (71° C).
  4. Use one teaspoon of tea leaves for each six ounces of water. For more than six cups of water, add one teaspoon “for the pot.” Steep your tea for one to ten minutes, depending on the tea type and your taste preferences. Small leaf teas infuse more quickly than long leaf teas, and flat leaf teas infuse more quickly than well-twisted leaves. Black teas should infuse for three to five minutes. Oolongs should steep for three to five minutes as well. Green teas and white teas generally only require a brew of one to three minutes. Herbal teas should be steeped for five to ten minutes.
    Brew by time rather than by color. The coloring components of tea infuse very quickly, so brewing by color can yield an underdeveloped pot of tea. Some teas, on the other hand, never show much color during brewing. Use more tea, not more time, if you would like a stronger brew. Using a teapot with an infuser or a tea ball enables you to remove the tea leaves when you no longer want the tea to steep. Never fill the infuser or tea ball more than halfway. The tea leaves need room to expand.
  5. Briefly stir the tea before serving to ensure uniform strength of brew. Rinsing the cups with hot water before serving also helps the tea stay warm.
  6. Keep your tea in the teapot warm by wrapping the teapot with a tea cozy. Applying direct heat to the teapot may harm the subtle flavors of the tea. (If no infuser has been used, pour the remaining tea through a strainer into a separate warmed teapot to take the leaves away from the brew.)
  7. Many tea drinkers add milk and sugar or honey to their tea. Milk is most often preferred with the heartier black teas. Cream is not used because the tannin in tea may cause the cream to curdle. If using milk, pour the milk first, then add the tea. This “scalding” of the milk is said to be a desirable effect. Green and white teas are generally taken without anything in them.